Natural Birth in Istanbul…

When I was in the early part of my pregnancy, I felt quite a bit of anxiety about what the birthing experience would be like in Turkey, especially hearing so much about how common caesareans are here. It took time and research, and help from knowledgeable people along the way, but I’m so happy with the way things turned out. I was able to have the natural, non-medicated birth experience I hoped for, so I thought I’d share a bit about how we got to that point, for anyone else looking for a similar experience in Istanbul.

A great starting point was being put in touch with the birthing class instructors and doulas from DOUM. This organization in Emirgan provides birth preparation classes, pre-natal and baby yoga, doula services and lots of other useful stuff. I met one of the owners, Nur, who gave me loads of information about the general birthing situation in Turkey and most importantly, gave me some useful leads as far as doctors and hospitals supportive of natural birth. Through Nur I heard about Dr Gülnihal Bülbül, who she said was probably the best option to consider.

I contacted Dr Gülnihal, and Richie and I went to meet her in May, when I was about 23 weeks pregnant. I got to ask her all the questions I didn’t ask my first doctor, and got answers that made me feel confident she had a view of childbirth that I agreed with. I also found out she’d even done training with Janet Balaskas, the author of Active Birth, one of the best birth books I read during my pregnancy. I felt completely relieved after meeting her and felt like I’d be able to trust her to support my intention to have a natural birth, whereas the doctor I had been going to at the American hospital was nice, but left me feeling like I was just being humoured and uncertain about how things would actually turn out when it came time to have the baby. With my first doctor I felt an underlying fear and anxiety that when the big day came, no matter what had been discussed beforehand, I’d be at the mercy of the doctor’s decisions and I’d end up with medical interventions I didn’t really need. Making the switch to Dr Gülnihal was absolutely key to having the birth experience I wanted and definitely one of the most important decisions I made during my pregnancy.

One of the best things about switching to Dr Gülnihal was the warm and personal care she provides. She takes time to get to know patients and made me feel comfortable calling her at any time with any problems I might have. I felt very well looked after throughout my pregnancy. At the American hospital, things were much more business-like and I felt like just a number more or less. Visits were usually rather quick affairs, just covering the basics. However, especially in the last couple of months of my pregnancy, visits to Dr Gülnihal would end up being about an hour long, with a nice chat after the usual check-up part was finished. Another nice thing was all the extra advice and information she provided, especially related to diet and general health during pregnancy. It seems obvious that a doctor would advise you on things like this, but that wasn’t the case with my first doctor. Her genuine warmth and kindness made it a pleasure to go for my check-ups and built up a level of trust that was so important when it came time for labour and delivery. Having a doctor we felt so comfortable with also meant that we could chose a cheaper hospital to have the baby. She advised us on hospitals to consider, and we felt confident choosing an inexpensive private hospital that she had a good working relationship with. In the end, we were very happy with the hospital and we saved a lot of money too!

The other important person I met with Nur’s help was my doula Amy. She was a perfect match for me and Richie, since one of our main first reasons for wanting a doula was to deal with our language problem (i.e. we don’t speak Turkish!). So, since Amy is American, we obviously didn’t have any communication problems with her, and she’s lived in Turkey for ages so we had no worries about having to deal with our Turkish language problem while we were in the hospital, which was certainly a relief.

But beyond that initial language concern, having Amy with us was so very worth the (in my opinion) modest cost. We met her a few times before the big day, so we could all get to know each other, and she gave us advice on a variety of things- places to shop for baby things, positions we could practice to prepare for labour, etc. She also helped to induce my labour naturally when the time came using aromatherapy, massage, etc., so that I didn’t have to have artificial induction. It was also perfect because Dr Gülnihal and Amy had worked with each other on many previous occasions so I really felt like I’d have a team supporting me.

And a final comment on the importance of a doula- it seems that if Amy hadn’t been with us, I might have ended up having a caesarian, due to the fact that I had a rather difficult and really long second-stage of labour. I was pushing for about 4 hours without much progress and there were concerns that I wouldn’t have the energy needed to continue and deliver the baby normally. However, since the baby was holding up fine and Amy felt confident that I could continue a bit longer, Dr Gülnihal felt that it was okay to let me keep pushing for a while longer. I’m glad she did because not long after that, the baby was finally moving down and an hour later he was born naturally and in his own time, without any drastic measures being taken.

So, even though I had a difficult labour and delivery, I managed to do it all naturally, without medication, taking the time necessary to let nature take its course. Because I had the support of a great doula and a doctor I trusted, I felt that even if medical intervention was necessary at some point, it would be because I really needed it for my own safety or for the baby’s safety. It wouldn’t be simply for the doctor’s convenience. Having this peace of mind made such a massive difference going into the whole experience.

So, if you’re someone looking to have a natural birth in Istanbul, it is certainly possible. I think having the right doctor and a doula are necessary in having a positive natural birth experience and I can’t recommend our doctor and doula strongly enough! Whatever kind of birth experience you’re looking for, I’d still recommend Dr Gülnihal and having a doula for the extra support. It’s so worth it!

If you’ve found this post because you’re researching birthing options in Turkey, I’d love to answer any questions I can or share contact information for our doctor or doula. Just leave a comment and I’ll tell you whatever I can!

Here are the two people I can’t thank enough, and who were so important in helping us bring little Liam into the world in they way we’d hoped for!

Liam with Dr Gülnihal

 

Amy and Liam

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27 thoughts on “Natural Birth in Istanbul…

  1. I found your post searching on “natural child birth istanbul.” It was quite informative. Could you please share which hospital you chose to give birth at? Thanks very much.

  2. Hi Collette, thanks for checking out my blog.
    The hospital we had our baby in is Özel Echomar Göztepe Hastanesi (www.echomar.com). However, my doctor has an independent practice in Acıbadem, near Kadiköy. I have no idea what the doctors are like at the hospital, but I would guess they are like most doctors in Istanbul and prefer c-sections. I do know from my experience, that, while the nurses were helpful and kind, they didn’t seem to be familiar with natural and active labour and birthing methods. I don’t know how this reflects the usual practice at this hospital. However, since we had the doctor we wanted, the birth was along the lines we hoped for. And beyond that, the hospital staff were kind, the hospital was clean, comfortable and our experience there was positive.
    Do you have a doctor already? For me, finding the right doctor who you can trust will support you in having a natural birth is the number one most important thing, and then the hospital choice isn’t as pressing.
    I hope that is helpful. Please let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to know. And best of luck!

  3. hey kim! i’m just catching up on reading blogs which i’ve falled realllllllly far behind on. can i share this when women from PAWI (professional american women of istanbul) have questions about where to get non-c-section doctors or ask for recs for doctors during pregnancy? it’s SUPER informative and better than i’ve ever seen anyone write on the listserv before. hope you, liam and richie are doing well!

    • Maggie, How’s it going?

      Please do share it! I’d love to be able to give any helpful info I can, and would also love to tell anyone possible about our amazing doctor and doula 🙂

      Also, I’m so sorry I didn’t get back to you ages ago when you text me! I’m a bit slow with that stuff these days. But we should meet up sometime soon. Maybe after your exciting Egypt trip 🙂

  4. Hi Kim, I’m so happy I found your blog! I am an American living in Istanbul & I hope to get pregnant sometime this year. It is important to me to have a natural birth and I was discouraged to hear about the high c-section rate here. I’ve been doing some research and came across your doctor & doula– it is great to see that they were so instrumental in your natural birth and I will not hesitate to contact them when the time comes. Thank you for showing that a natural birth experience is possible here! I also read your birth story and it was amazing, you are so strong! If it is not too personal, could you give me a rough estimate of the cost of the doctor & doula services? Thank you!

    • Hello Sara,
      Thanks so much for checking out my blog, and apologies for taking so long to respond! It is crazy how c-sections are so common here and I was really worried about it when I got pregnant. But it is great to know there are at least a few doctors and others who support natural childbirth! Now, to answer your question:
      For general check-ups with the doctor, the cost was 200TL per visit, but then there were often follow-up appointments where I wasn’t charged anything, which was really great. For the actual fees for the birth, it was about 3,400TL. We don’t have insurance so we had to pay that total ourselves, but obviously if you have insurance you’ll be doing better than us. 🙂 However, it’s certainly cheaper than a doctor at the American Hospital or some place like that, and to have a doctor you actually trust, I think it’s well worth the money spent. Finally, for the doula, it was 1,000TL, and that included a few meetings before the birth, her coming over to help induce my labour naturally, her being with you for however long your labour and delivery is (she’ll come when your labour begins and will stay with you no matter how long it all takes! 2 hours or 2 days, doesn’t matter), plus a post-birth follow-up meeting. So, again, it was definitely money well spent. I hope that’s helpful!

      Good luck with everything and I really hope you get to have the natural experience you’re looking for when the time comes 🙂
      Kim

  5. Hi Kim,

    I am so glad to have found your blog and to know that you can give birth naturally in Istanbul. My dear Turkish husband insisted on me giving birth to our first child in Istanbul. He is keen for me to have our child delivered naturally but is also aware that the doctors in Istanbul are more pro-C sections. Could you provide me with details on where and how I could contact Dr Gulnihal? I am terribly worried that I would be stuck with a doctor who would initially share my view on a natural child birth in the beginning on a pretense and then shove C-section down my throat when the time comes.

    Thank you so much!!

    • Hello Fana,
      First of all, congratulations! And I’d love to help 🙂

      Dr Gulnihal’s email address is: gulnihalbu@gmail.com

      Her office is located on Acibadem Caddesi over near Kadikoy, but I’m afraid I don’t have her business card with me at the moment. I always made my appointments by email though, so you’ll have no trouble getting in contact with her that way.

      I wish you the best of luck with everything and I certainly hope you get to have the birth experience you’re looking for! Dr Gulnihal is definitely great and we are still just so happy we chose her as our doctor. I’d also strongly recommend researching the option of having a doula. Dr Gulnihal works with a couple of very lovely women who work as doulas and I know that having one with me during labour helped save me from having a c-section just as much as having the right doctor. They made a great team.

      All the best with everything!
      Kim

  6. Hi Kim, I just found out that I’m pregnant’ and I have been searching right doctor for me in Istanbul like a crazy woman 😉 I’m so happy i saw your blog. Now i will definitely call Dr Gülnihal to set up appointment with her. Thank you so much for this post.

    • Hi and congratulations Anastasiya! You must be so excited! I’m glad you found my post helpful and I hope you like Dr Gulnihal as much as I did 🙂 Best of luck with everything and thanks for stopping by.
      Kim

  7. Hi Kim, Thank you for the generous postings. Congratulations on your little son! I am wondering if home birthing was an option for you at any point. I am guessing maybe you considered it but couldn’t find a doctor or midwife to support it. Do you happen to have heard of any doctors like Dr. Gulnihal on the European side?
    Best,
    Jasmine

    • Thanks Jasmine 🙂
      To be honest, home birthing wasn’t really something I considered, maybe just because I’m somewhat of a worrier and felt more comfortable having a hospital birth, so long as I had a doctor I trusted. I’m not really sure if it’s done here at all, but I’m no expert on that subject. As for doctors like Dr Gulnihal, you could contact the ladies at DOUM ( http://www.do-um.com/English/english.aspx ) who know much more than I do about different doctors and hospitals, etc. around the city. I found out about my doctor through them and they had lots of other useful info to share as well. Hope that’s helpful! 🙂 All the best!

  8. Hello Kim!
    It was great to find your blog, I found out things that I did not know about!
    One of those is that the goztepe hospital echomar where I inteded giving birth is not reliable for natural birth!
    Now it’s clear why the doctor mentioned c-section so easily …I was shocked when he spoke about it!
    I moved to Turkey about a month ago and i’m due in august!
    It’s a bit frustrating finding out about all these difficulties around birth, also because I was given the price for birth at echomar for 5000 tl and honestly I can’t afford that price!
    But is there a chance I can find a public hospital where I will be safe from last minute C-section?
    Also the 3500 that you payed the hospital includes your doctors service or you had to pay her separately? If yes, how much?
    Thank you for being such a source of info! much appreciated!
    Also hope we can keep in touch and maybe meet since I don’t speak turkish and feeling a bit lonely in this huge metropolis!
    Have a lovely evening!
    Petra

    • Hi Petra, thanks for checking out my blog and congrats on the upcoming birth of your baby 🙂
      Well, to answer your questions, first of all, the cost for our independent doctor was 3,400TL and the costs for the hospital were 1,400TL.

      As for public hospitals, I have absolutely no idea what you could expect there. However, I know one Turkish woman who has four children, all born in public hospitals, and she had ‘normal’ (not c-section) births for all of them. Another woman that I worked with had her daughter in a public hospital and had a normal birth, and I think she had an epidural, but definitely not a c-section.

      I’ve read that the Turkish government is trying to reduce the number of c-section births, probably because the cost is higher, so maybe you have a better chance of a normal birth in a public hospital. It seems like the private hospitals want to get as much money as possible and almost everyone has a c-section there!

      So, two examples aren’t really much to base your decision on, but that’s all I know about public hospitals.

      I might suggest, if the cost of a private hospital is too much, maybe save money by going to a public hospital, but have a doula with you. Our doula charged 1,000TL for all of her services (multiple meetings before the birth, helping with inducing labour naturally, being with you for ALL of your labour and delivery, no matter how long it takes, and one meeting after the birth), and she definitely helped me avoid a c-section and was an amazing support through everything. If you save money on the hospital, I’d say that paying for the doula is a very, VERY good investment! I highly recommend it!

      So, I hope that’s a little helpful and I hope you get the experience you want when you have your baby. And maybe sometime we could meet! I don’t know too many mothers in Istanbul, for one thing, but also, it might be nice just to have a chat. I know it’s difficult moving to a new city and getting to know new people! If you send me your email address, I can contact you that way.
      All the best and good luck with everything,
      Kim

      • Wow Kim you’re amazing!
        I feel so reassured! Thank you so much!
        Definitely would love to meet up!
        Please contact me when you have any time, I obviously don’t work so have plenty of free time!
        petra_leskovac@yahoo.it is my email!
        Looking forward to meeting you!
        🙂

  9. It’s a bit sad that I am getting info on natural birth from a non-Turkish (all that c-section crazyness) but…still I’m glad I found your blog and read this post. Thanks for this long and informative entry and the genuine story.

    • Hi Selen, glad I could share what I know. I hope things go well for you and I’m glad you met Dr Gulnihal. Later you’ll have to share your story and be a resource for other Turkish people who also want a natural birth! I’m sure lots of people will be interested to hear about your experiences! 🙂

  10. Hi Kim

    My husband and I are moving to Istanbul From the states in August and we are expecting. I’m so happy that I found your blog and find it very informative and a blessing for sure! The c section rate in Turkish hospitals is pretty overwhelming, and am trying to research as much as possible to figure out natural birth options. I’m a lil concerned about my birth experience considering I don’t speak any Turkish, moving there while pregnant and not knowing anyone! Thanks to your suggestions I have already contacted Dr Gulnihal, and will make an appt with her when we arrive. I was also wondering if it would be possible to get your doula Amy’s email as well? She sounds great and would love to get in contact with her.

    Thank you again!!
    Amanda

    • I just contacted Dr Gulnihal and went for an appointment this week. I want to continue with her throughout my pregnancy. Hopefully things will go as I expect.

      The Turkish govt is trying to set rules for c-section these days so hopefully all that crazyness will come to an end…

      By the way if anyone needs information from a native Turkish living in Istanbul, feel free to contact me 🙂

      • Hi Selen

        That’s great that you saw Dr Gulnihal, and it went well. I’m really hoping she is a good fit for me as well when I get to Istanbul.

        I really appreciate that you offered information being from Turkey. Would it be possible to contact you via email? As I mentioned, I will new to Istanbul next month and would greatly value your advice on pregnancy in Istanbul. Here is my email address amandakristina@gmail.com

        Best
        Amanda

    • Hi Amanda, congrats and good luck with your upcoming move! I’ll give you Amy’s email, but the last time I met Dr Gulnihal (about a month ago?) she mentioned that Amy is moving back the the US in the near future so I’m not sure if she’ll be available. I tried to get in touch with her a while ago but didn’t hear anything. But anyway, I’ll give you her email and you can see for yourself 🙂 Otherwise, I recommend getting in touch with the women at DOUM and getting information on other doulas from them. One of the co-owners of DOUM (Nur) is a doula too and she speaks quite good English and is really lovely, so that might be an option for you. My husband and I also did a sort of birth-prep private class with her too, which was really useful.
      So, Amy’s email is: aegage@yahoo.com
      I do hope you hear back from her. She was such a great help for us! But if not, I’m sure you’ll find another amazing doula.
      Good luck with everything and take care,
      Kim

      • Hi Kim

        Thank you soooo much for the advice. Very helpful, and the private birth class sounds like a great idea as well!

        Thanks again!
        Amanda

  11. Pingback: Kimberly’s Natural Birth in Istanbul | DOUM - Doğuma Hazırlık ve Doğum Sonrası Destek

  12. Hello Kim, it’s 2015 and I’ve just come across your blog. I’d love to have your doctor’s contact information as I’ll be about 6 months’ pregnant when I arrive in Istanbul this summer and want to get some support/information well before then! I doubt this is information you’d post in a response (and I hope you’re still reachable via your blog, and that your little Liam is doing well) but please feel free to drop me a quick email. Many thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

    • Hi! Thanks for getting in touch. I’m just going to send you a private email with Dr Gulnihal’s contact info, if that’s okay. She is an absolutely wonderful doctor, and although I’m now back living in Ireland, I seriously want to go back to Turkey if I have another baby, just so she can be my doctor!!! 🙂 Okay, email coming your way soon. Kim

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